NBA salary cap projected to reach $94M, outpacing earlier predictions

ByBrian Windhorst ESPN logo
Saturday, June 18, 2016

The NBA is awash in cash, and free agency next month will be more lucrative than even the sunniest earlier projections.

The league's salary cap is now projected to explode to $94 million from this season's $70 million, according to a memo sent to teams Friday that was obtained by ESPN. That's up from projections of $92 million in April and $89 million last year.

Depending on other moves, it means the Boston Celtics could have as much as $53 million in cap space, with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers having the capability to reach more than $30 million each in space.

The bump means players with 10 years or more of experience -- such as LeBron James -- who sign new max contracts will earn $30.8 million to start. To put that in perspective, in league history, only two players have earned $30 million in a season: Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

A player such as Kevin Durant, who has nine years of experience, is eligible to sign for up to $26.4 million for next season.

The new luxury-tax line is projected to be $113 million, which would be the highest payroll in NBA history.

The influx of money is mostly from the start of the NBA's new television rights deals, which are worth $24 billion over the next nine years. ESPN is an NBA rights holder. But the league also is raking in profits from ticket sales, merchandise and developing overseas business.

In a related example, the owners will return $133 million to the players to cover a shortfall from the players' agreement to receive 50 percent of basketball-related income. That number was previously projected at $93 million, which already would have obliterated records for such a payment.

The new cap projection was first reported by The Vertical.

ESPN's Larry Coon contributed to this report.